Mount Maunganui's Raiha Ensor won her first national title at the Health 2000 National Surfing Championships completed at Makorori Beach, Gisborne on Saturday.

Ensor took out the open women's division with fellow Mountie Elin Tawharu third behind Ensor and Auckland's Gabriella Sansom. Tawharu won the under-18 title to finish an excellent week.

But it was Ensor who took the major honours with a performance that even surprised herself. In the final she fought back from a slow start and overcame Sansom during the latter stages of the final.

The turning point in the final came with a 6.83 point ride that she followed up with a near-perfect 9.67.


"It is such a good feeling. There were a few years in the junior divisions where I came second, third and fourth but to actually win the open division just means that much more," Ensor said.

"It is almost relief for finally getting one. I was nervous up until that wave because Gaby had got a six and an eight. Then I got a high six and it gave me confidence to wait for waves and get the right one and when I got that nine, I knew it would be hard for Gaby to come so I'm just super happy."

Earlier Tawharu won the Under-18 girls division in convincing fashion posting a 13.1-point heat total to secure her second title in the division ahead of Brie Bennett (Rag), with Georgia Wederell (Mount Maunganui) third.

In the men's open division, Gisborne's Ricardo Christie returned to New Zealand waters to clinch the open men's title.

Christie's win helped local Gisborne Boardriders Club claim the top boardrider club in New Zealand taking the title from Raglan with Mount Maunganui's Bay Boardriders third.

The final day of the event was contested in 1m waves with early offshores making way for sea breeze winds by mid-morning. However, the waves remained good throughout the day with New Zealand's best surfers putting on a phenomenal show for the packed-out beach.

It is thirteen years since Christie claimed his first title as a 16-year-old and today he had to come from behind in the last minute to clinch the win with a near-perfect 9.93 ride, toppling Piha surfer Elliot Paerata-Reid.

"It's been a long time between drinks I have done a few things between then and now but I am happy to get my name on the trophy again. I have a way to go to catch up to my mate Billy [Stairmand] but I am just stoked to come out on top this week," he said.

Placing third and fourth in the final were underdogs Levi Stewart (Waihi Beach) and Paul Moretti (Northland). Despite their tag, both surfers challenged for the early lead with Stewart holding down first at the start of the heat. However, when the pressure went on, the two World Qualifying Series campaigners in Christie and Paerata-Reid stepped it up to another level with their surfing.

Christchurch surfer Conor McLennan took a well-deserved win in the under-18 boys' division, posting a 15.77-point heat total in the final to overcome triple finalist Kora Cooper (Rag), Elliott Brown (Dun) and Jay Piper — Healion (Whitianga).

Mount Maunganui's Georgia Wederell finished second in the under-16 girls' final with Nick White (Mount Maunganui) winning the over-30s division.